2A Rally Today in Harrisburg

Today is the 7th Annual Rally held in Harrisburg. Unfortunately, this is the second year in a row I haven’t been there, and the past couple times before that turnout has been nothing to write home about. This year, is looks to be about 100 people. I’m probably going to get raked over the coals for this, but I question the value of continuing to do a rally like this on an annual basis if it can’t draw the kinds of numbers it needs to really make a big impression on politicians.

For example, yesterday there was a rally for property tax reform that looks to have drawn a similar sized crowd compared to some of our low years. How many do you have to draw before it’s just another day, with another crowd at the capitol, with another interest they are lobbying for? I don’t think it’s in our interests to be, well, just another interest. We’re the gun lobby, and when we turn out, it ought to be with enough numbers put the fear of god into politicians. Is the rally turning out the numbers needed to accomplish that? I have seem some pretty good turnout in Harrisburg on rally day, but it’s pretty variable from year to year, from what I’ve been able to tell from my own experience.

But that’s not to say I think nothing works with 2A Rally Day. I believe breaking up into groups and having everyone go visit their legislators and key committee people who are sitting on whatever bill we want that year, is quite valuable. I also believe there needs to be more activities that benefit gun owners, to inform them, and teach them how to be better activists for the issue. It would be beneficial to them to hear how the political process works, so they can understand how they fit into that picture. I believe that would be more beneficial than listening to political speeches for several hours. In short, I think the rally needs to be more about the gun owners than the politicians, and in my several years of attending the rally, I’ve felt that the reverse was more true.

Should it be annual? Or should it only happen when we have a bill we need moved? I’m not sure I have an opinion on this. But I think it’s a tough sell to get gun owners to take a day off work every year, drive to Harrisburg at the crack of dawn to be there in time, just to listen to political speeches for several hours. That’s a lot to ask of people every year.

That said, I don’t particularly think I have all the answers on this topic, so if anyone has suggestions or criticism, I’m all ears in the comments. I’m particularly interested in hearing from Illinoisans who are involved with planning iGOLD, which has never, in any of the pictures I’ve seen, had problems with low turnout.

11 thoughts on “2A Rally Today in Harrisburg”

  1. Ours is sponsored by the Assembly Minority Leader with Wayne LaPierre as guest speaker and it’s brought us 2000-3000 people each year. You need to get someone in the legislative leadership to sponsor the event and better speakers than Kim Stolfer and Larry Pratt. People will not come to listen to either of them.

    1. I had forgotten about it until I saw the mention of it at Capitol Ideas. But that’s largely because I didn’t plan to go this year, because I’m just to busy to take more time off this month.

  2. iGold has a boogie man to rally against, the Chicago political/gun grabbing machine. In IL, they’re fighting to get CCW. We have a pretty darn good CCW process here, and in a few counties they’re issued on the spot. So, while there are gains to be made for gun owners, there is no boogie man to fight against in PA. Sure, I’d like to see Philly slapped a little bit more about how they treat gun owners. I’d like the CCW process to be more shall issue and less may issue (as it is in some counties). I’d like to be able to carry an ASP baton with my LTCF and not just a firearm.

    Just some thoughts. Also, Jacob is right. Better sponsors and better speakers. I’m really not interested in listening to Pratt complain about NRA.

    1. I think that, for similar reasons, it’s going to be difficult to get Constitutional Carry here in Utah. At the same time, while I hate the plateau we’re on (and Pennsylvania may have a similar one), it’s at least a nice plateau to be on!

  3. Big issue….

    It’s a Tuesday. And it’s hard to ask working Americans to take a personal/vacation day, or a half day at minimum, every year.

    Were this on Saturday a lot more Pennsylvanians could attend.

    Frankly, the rally should be split up.

    1. Rally on Saturday or Sunday for big numbers.

    2. Following week, smaller more dedicated group with more free time meet with the legislators.

    I had a work meeting and couldn’t make it but was torn as to whether I was going because it’s an hour in the opposite direction of my work. Equating to a 5 hour commute for work.

    Not very feasible at that point…

  4. We hold IGOLD on a day the legislators are in session, so it is always a Tue, Wed, or Thur. We got about 8,000 this year and I kinda feel we’ve found the number of gun owners who will take a day off of work and travel to Springfield.

    Here are what I feel are the keys to our success:

    1. Team effort. IGOLD is sponsored, planned, and executed by a coalition of IL gun rights groups across the state.

    2. Buses. We hire buses from areas all over the state and the ticket price is pretty reasonable…$20 usually. Some buses are free due to sponsorship. For instance GunsSaveLife (GSL) aka Champaign County Rifle Association pays for 2 or 3 buses from Champaign/Urbana every year.

    3. Single Issue. Despite the efforts of some to bring in other issues, IGOLD is solely about gun rights, which broadens the tent.

    4. Grass Roots. IGOLD is driven by grass roots leaders. The planning committee is comprised of leaders from several gun rights groups, but it is primarily driven by Valinda Rowe, the IllinoisCarry.com spokesperson.

    5. Battleground. Illinois is the last battleground for Gun Control. The Joyce Foundation is headquartered here. With no carry, we are the last holdout state. This energizes our base.

  5. I’ll apologize again for belaboring this old story (repeated old stories accompany getting old, yourself) but when we had 10,000 gun owners in Harrisburg in 1994 (on a Tuesday; Flag Day) it was because the Republican Party quietly facilitated it as part of their balls-out effort that would become the Republican UnRevolution in Congress and the state legislatures that year. Our club was never all that enthusiastic about political initiatives, but a few Republican notables whispering in key personalities’ ears that the upcoming rally would be a good thing to support, had them springing club money to charter buses, rather than driving out in two or three cars.

    It did help that a Republican “assault weapon” ban had just been reversed after passing the House and then being unpassed, back at the beginning of the year, thanks purely to grassroots outrage. The grassroots were still leaning toward outrage.

    As I have related in the past, while there was plenty of posturing about firearms issues, it turned out to be more a Santorum Rally than anything, with anything or anyone who stood still for a few seconds getting plastered with a Santorum sticker by one of the dozens of Santorum operatives in the crowd. And, the rally seemed not to deflect the comprehensive anti-gun legislation that would be sprung on us that October, to be pushed through by new governor Tom Ridge and the majority Republicans the next June.

    An attempt to replicate that rally exactly one year later, but without party facilitation, garnered a turnout of approximately 30, but I have to admit I forget whether that was counting Larry Pratt and Kim Stolfer or not. I was there to meet with GOA’s Dennis Fusaro at the time, and we went to visit Sam Rohrer in his office, plus a couple others.

  6. I was there yesterday. I can tell you that teh low number of people that were there, 90% of them stayed to go and talk to reps and senators about pending legislation.

    I think the other 10% were there for the raffle.

    And in the years when it has been a larger crowd, about the same amount of people split up into groups and went around the capitol, the others there to rah-rah as a crowd and go home.

    One of the main reasons it isnt on a Saturday, is many of the reps go home to their districts. Tuesday was the best chance to get all of them in one place, even though they were in committee meetings and such, we managed to talk to the legislative staff of a few senators, talk to a few senators and representatives about what issues there were with bills for preemption enforcement, PICS elimination and Constitutional Carry. My team even got a CFPA recommended rep to agree to co-sponsor Constitutional Carry, but we couldn’t move him on preemption.

    Many of the reps were interested in carry laws because its been brought to their door, 2 of them have been mugged on their way out of the capitol, and now have to go through the same hoops that we do.

    FOAC has a few people constantly going to Harrisburg to work on this stuff, but these rallys bring a lot more people out to see how this is done, and the reps see that. If it was not effective, SEIU and some nursing home union wouldn’t have been there yesterday to do the same thing (to lobby “free” stuff on our dime). This is how things get passed in PA, not by emailing or showing up for some expensive speaker. I might add that FOAC has a reputation that as a political action committee, we arent just up there working to get these laws passed or tossed, we are helping with boots on the ground to get good pro- 2nds Amendment people elected, and in the halls of the capitol building, its well known.

    Another thing I will mention… the age group difference was stunning. the guys doing most of the hard work (with one exception) were all well headed or in retirement age. When those guys are gone… what happens to all of that time and effort building that reputation and access?

  7. Let’s watch and see how many cosponsors the Constitutional Carry Bill gains the next few days, to measure the effect of the rally and the grassroots lobbying.

    I emphasize “in the next few days,” not after the hacks have had time to triangulate the issue.

    1. Next couple of weeks more like. You know how long it took just to get castle doctrine in place? It also takes follow up calls and more work to keep them rolling along in the right direction, not “sitting back and watching”

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